Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice No. 35 of Session 2005-06
25 July 2006


ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW INQUIRY

Constitutional Affairs Committee launches inquiry into the implementation of the Carter Review

The Committee has decided to carry out an inquiry into implementation of the Review by Lord Carter of Coles which considered the means for delivering the Government's vision, set out in A Fairer Deal for Legal Aid, for procuring publicly funded legal services, particularly criminal defence services.

The proposals for different means of procurement have proved controversial and the Committee will consider their likely impact on the criminal justice system. They include making lawyers bid for contracts to undertake certain work (for example advising clients at police stations) and paying fixed fees.

Concerns have been expressed that the proposed reforms may have an adverse effect on the provision of legal services, since smaller firms are unlikely to be awarded contracts. This is expected to have a disproportionate effect on rural firms and firms owned by ethnic minority practitioners. Moreover, it is also possible that the quality of provision could suffer since lawyers would be encouraged to spend less time on cases if they were only receiving fixed fees.

The inquiry's terms of reference are:

  • To consider the impact on the justice system of the proposed changes envisaged in the Carter Review;

  • To assess whether the proposed changes would have a disproportionate effect on certain types of providers;

  • To examine how proposals to pay lawyers fixed fees would impact on provision.

The Committee will be receiving copies of responses to the Department for Constitutional Affairs/ Legal Services Commission consultation, however, evidence will be sought to cover:

  • Whether there is a need to modernize the procurement of legal aid?

  • Whether the timetable for implementation suggested in Lord Carter's Report is realistic?

  • What benefits might be generated for defendants and others by adopting these proposals? Also what impacts/disadvantages might result from implementation?

  • What impact the proposals will have on different communities (such as Black, Minority Ethnic and rural communities).

  • What impact any or all of the recommendations will have on legal aid providers?

  • How the proposals will affect firms of differing size, structure and practitioner mix.

  • Whether the measures proposed will promote the provision of high quality advice and support the effective and efficient operation of the Justice System.


Call for evidence:
Submissions relating to the terms of reference and specific questions above are invited from relevant interested parties. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the address above by Monday 2 October 2006.

Submissions, which should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words, should consist of:

  • a covering letter containing your name; contact details and any request for information to remain confidential

  • a memorandum containing a brief introduction about you; a summary of the main points; the information you would like the committee to be aware of€”set out in numbered paragraphs and any recommendations that you would like the committee to consider

An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted by e-mail to [email protected] or on a disk to the address above.

Further guidance is available at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm


Notes:
1. Lord Carter's Review of Legal Aid Procurement Legal Aid: A market-based approach to reform, July 2006 is available at: www.legalaidprocurementreview.gov.uk

2. The Department for Constitutional Affairs/ Legal Services Commission Consultation Paper Legal Aid: a sustainable future, CP 13/06, July 2006, is available from: www.dca.gov.uk or www.legalservices.gov.uk

3. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), James Brokenshire MP, David Howarth MP, Siân James MP, Mr Piara S Khabra MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Jeremy Wright MP